Federal prosecutors on Monday charged two Mexican nationals with the killing of U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III. Horne died early Sunday when authorities say a smuggling boat rammed his inflatable Coast Guard vessel. Ted Chen reports from Marina Del Rey for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2012.
Colleagues described Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III -- killed in a counter-drug operation off Southern California -- as "loyal, level-headed" and a "big brother" to all who served with him.
The 34-year-old's fellow Coast Guard members talked about Horne a day after the cutter Halibut was investigating a panga boat at about 1 a.m. near Santa Cruz Island. The panga -- a low-sided, outboard-powered fishing boat -- rammed a Coast Guard vessel, authorities said.
Horne, based in Marina del Rey, was killed and another Coast Guard member was wounded when they were thrown from the vessel.
The Coast Guard stopped the fleeing panga, detained two people and seized drugs found onboard. No details about the kind of drugs nor the amount were available.
The two men, identified by the U.S. Attorney's office as Jose Meija-Leyva and Manuel Beltran-Higuera, appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday and were charged with killing an officer. They were ordered to remain jailed without bail pending a Dec. 21 arraignment.
Three Coast Guard members who served with Horne described him Monday as a mentor who remained calm during stressful situations. Casey Curry, of Coast Guard Station Long Beach, met Horne in 2001 when they were stationed in South Carolina.
"My first impression of him was that this is one squared-away Third Class," said Curry. "His true sense of leadership echoed throughout the station. He was that type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Everyone just remembers how loyal, level-headed, and what a friend he was."
Horne (pictured, below, with son) joined the Coast Guard at age 18, Curry said.
Another Guardsman talked about the time the Halibut encountered a group of kayakers who were blown off-shore by an unexpected storm. The kayakers were cold and exhausted, but Horne guided the crew as they pulled the kayakers from the water, then retrieved blankets and hot chocolate for them.
The panga involved in Sunday's collision was spotted near Santa Cruz Island, the largest in the chain of Channel Islands in Santa Barbara County that sits about 20 miles southwest of Port Hueneme. Horne suffered a fatal head injury when the panga rammed an inflatable chase boat deployed from the Halibut, according to the Coast Guard.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released the following statement Monday:
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of U.S. Coast Guard Boatswains Mate Chief Terrell Horne during a counter-drug operation yesterday morning near Santa Cruz Island, California. BMC Horne and his fellow crew members of the USCG Cutter Halibut were engaged in an at-sea interdiction when they came under threat by a small vessel that rammed their small boat. This tragedy reminds us of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day, and the great risks they willingly take, as they protect our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of BMC Horne and all of our Coast Guard personnel at this difficult time."